YouTube Blues II


Karla isn’t a fan of the daily YouTubing:

“What are the “few successful videos”? I’d bet they are evergreen feature types that are among your technically best and most broadly appealing videos. If there’s a pattern there, go with it — or at least explore it further.”

My top videos are:

How to Make Chewing Tobacco (258k views)

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Harvesting Rain Water (250k views)

Best Composting Toilet I’ve Seen Yet (209k views)

Cleft Grafting a Fig Tree (195k views)

How to Germinate Peach Pits and Other Stone Fruit (111k views)

An (Almost) Instant Compost Pile (94k views)

How to Change the Transmission Fluid in a Dodge Ram (79k views)

How to Make Paper Fire Bricks / Fire Logs from Recycled Paper (70k views)

Rocket Stove Manufacturers Hate Him! Local Kid Improves Cob Rocket Stove with this One Weird Trick (65k views)

Awesome Homemade Kegerator and Home Brewing Setup (60k views)

Those ten videos represent almost all of my YouTube income. I have over 500 videos.

There are videos I like better than those in my top ten; however, YouTube algorithms are a weird thing. It’s very hard to tell what is going to “go viral” and what will not. “Rocket Stove Manufacturers Hate Him” was a joke title and the video isn’t all that innovative. The “(Almost) Instant Compost Pile” video is mostly Rachel talking while I throw together a bin made of pallets.

The “how-to” videos seem to be the way to go, though. Most of the top ten are that sort.

She continues:

“I love learning from you — you’ve completely changed the way I look at gardening and the natural world. That goes whether I’m consuming a book, blog post or video of yours — except for the daily videos. I’m tired of watching you walk up and down a hill and wing it topically. I don’t get enough out of those videos to sink 7 to 9 minutes of my life into them. From the outside, it appears to me that the only reason to do those dailies is just to be able to say you post on YouTube daily, which isn’t your style. So if daily videos are a poorly paying time sink for you, allocate less time to them and more time to more lucrative manners of spreading your gospel already.”

Actually, the regular YouTube posting isn’t just to say I post on YouTube daily. I shoot for 4-5 videos a week. This is on the advice of Justin Rhodes, though he urged me to post seven days a week. His channel went nuts when he did that. My content, even when I’m winging it, is more entertaining than 99% of the gardening videos on YouTube, but I get the criticism. I am not much of a video watcher myself. I do YouTube to reach a visual audience. I prefer to communicate through writing, but many more people are on YouTube. The views there compared to the views on this blog testify to that. Also, the YouTube videos are targeted at a lower-IQ audience than my writing. It’s deliberate. I’m not going to go full reality TV-show like Justin (I honestly can’t watch most of his videos), though that’s a great way to make much more money. I don’t put my entire family on the net, because it’s full of evil people, plus I find videos about being sick in the car and going to the dentist obnoxious. Yet he is a MAJOR YouTube success! And helped me get to where I am. So it’s a matter of finding the niche, I suppose.

That said, I do make some ridiculous jokes and put up some stupid things just for fun. And yes, I do wander around and wing it in many videos. They’re not for everyone, obviously. My books are what I really am proud of. The YouTube thing is partly for reaching new people and partly as a side income. I was hoping to build it into a serious income over time, but it’s moving slower than I would like.

“There’s nothing wrong with thinking that way. If you want to make a full-time go at this, you have to look at your options that way. It’s not selfish or greedy. If your content doesn’t make you money, your audience will lose out on future content — a lose-lose. Besides, if a particular medium pays more, chances are it’s a medium your audience enjoys more. So, again, mind those patterns.

Just please no podcasts, because I’m so not an auditory learner.

As for the moral quandary of YouTube-ing, you’re on your own. Godspeed.”

The pattern is definitely moving towards video and audio and away from print, unfortunately. I have written and produced thousands of radio programs – no kidding – as that was my life before jumping full-time into garden writing. A podcast would be easy for me to do. Again, I know some people aren’t going to get it. That’s why I write books as well. And I then put my books into audio for those that prefer it.

YouTube is evil but it’s probably a necessary evil at this point. I may cut down my production of videos for a time and see what happens, or re-focus the content. I’ve been very busy writing a novel lately so it’s been good to not have all the videos to produce.

I do need to film Bahfeemus II, though.

As for Patreon, as some have mentioned, I’m not sure how I feel about it. It would be a good way to skip the ads – but on the other hand it feels like ebegging. You guys can let me know what you think about that. Worth doing?


YouTube Blues


As much as I’ve enjoyed building up my YouTube channel, it often works out to more trouble than it’s worth.

Yes, I’ve gained reach – but the ad-supported nature of the medium is flawed at best. YouTube is riddled with crummy ads, yet those ads pay me royalties every month. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s a few hundred bucks. That few hundred bucks, however, mostly comes from a few successful videos I’ve posted. The almost daily videos I’ve been posting usually only make me a couple of dollars each. I have over 500 videos on YouTube now but the income is still not catching up to how much work I put into the production. And as YouTube has become more politically correct – even censoring the venerable RON PAUL, of all people! – their ad revenue has dropped farther.

I’m not sure I want to play this game much longer. I have 26,000+ subscribers but it’s becoming obvious that YouTube isn’t a particularly good source of income. And supporting the Google machine with my work bugs me. I would like to just produce videos for fun but I also need to take care of my family. It might be better for me to back off on video production and write more books. Or maybe go back into full-time audio production work, like I used to do.

I’m not quitting YouTube for now but I am thinking the time I spend on my channel might be better directed into another endeavor.

I really do like making videos, so I would miss it.

What do you guys think?


Wild Edible Chinese Yams in North Carolina


Andrew found me on YouTube and shared pictures of some very familiar edible wild yams he found on his property:

“I’ve been eating these already, no problems. Here’s pics.”

dioscorea batatas chinese yam edible

He continues: “Tedious to harvest by hand though. Need a sheet spread beneath. I’ll try to dig up a root and get a pic of that for you too. These volunteered somehow and on the north side of a large 2 story house with big oak trees keeping it pretty cool and shaded. Plenty of rain from the roof and no gutters.”

edible wild yam dioscorea opposita north carolina

When I asked where these vines were located, he wrote “Mebane, NC. Near downtown at a residence.”

chinese yam edible wild yam north carolina

So, for those of you who wish you could get in on the yam-growing action but live farther north than yams generally grow, here’s your species: Dioscorea batatas, also known as Dioscorea opposita.

That’s the “yamberry” Eric Toensmeier writes about in his entertaining book Paradise Lot.

And it’s one of the varieties I grew in North Florida. The edible bulbils are featured in this video:

And the long, snaky roots in this one:

And yes, it is an evil invasive species. Very, very evil. Very, very invasive.

The government of Michigan warns about it:

Habitat: This deciduous vine can be found along roadsides, fence rows, stream banks, ditches, and rich, mesic forests. While it tolerates anything from full sun to deep shade, it prefers intermediate light.

Native Range: Asia

U.S. Distribution: Chinese yam has spread to 16 southeastern states since its introduction in the 1800’s and has been recorded in some locations in Michigan.

Local Concern: Chinese yam can grow up to 16 feet in height, engulfing surrounding vegetation along the way. While this vine dies back in the winter, it grows and reproduces quickly enough to reduce plant diversity and threaten native ecosystems.


Michigan is joined in its concern by many other states. I have read reports like the one above that Chinese Yam vines will overrun native species.

But on the bright side, Plants for a Future shares how delicious it is:

Edible Parts: Fruit; Root.
Edible Uses:

Tuber – cooked[1, 46, 61, 105]. A floury texture[27] with a very pleasant flavour that is rather like a potato[K]. The tubers can be boiled, baked, fried, mashed, grated and added to soups[183]. They store well and for a long time[27, 37] and can also be left in the ground and harvested as required in the winter[K]. This is a top quality root crop, very suitable for use as a staple food[K]. An arrowroot can be extracted from the root[46], though this is not as good at binding other foods as the starch from D. japonica[183]. The root contains about 20% starch. 75% water, 0.1% vitamin B1, 10 – 15 mg% vitamin C[174]. Fruit. A starchy flavour, it is said to be very good for the health[206]. We wonder if this report is referring to the tubercles[K]. We’ve heard the aerial tubers can be eaten and are very tasty.

It’s obvious what we need to do, right?

We need to eat it! And if perhaps a few plants escape into our gardens every year, well, we should eat those too.

Relying on one root crop for calories isn’t antifragile. Grow potatoes – they’re great. But also add turnips, yams, taro, Jerusalem artichokes, cassava or whatever else works in your climate. In North Carolina, it seems obvious that one decent choice is the Chinese yam.


Homemade Furniture


Weekend projects:

Tomorrow I’ll share a video on planting vanilla orchids – I just popped 6 or more into the front yard.

In a few minutes, though, I’m off to visit my friend with the sawmill.

Yesterday afternoon I took my family to the beach to watch what we could see of the eclipse. We only got a little over a 50% decrease in the solar disc here but it was still fun to see the world go darker than normal, plus it was an excuse to visit the beach.

While there, I noticed the local resort had cut down part of a large tree with red wood. It looked like nice lumber, so I called my friend to see if he’d want to cut it up for me. After some extended research, I finally nailed the tree down as Albizia saman.

He agreed to cut it for me, so we’re off to pick up the log this morning and send it through the saw. Ought to be really cool.


On Guitars and Gardens


Though I haven’t done as much gardening as I’d like, we’re still doing well this year.

First, here’s a look at the small gardens next to our house:

And the gardens next to where the bull ate my pigeon peas, just a little downhill from the rest of the yard:

I’ll take you down to the gardens down the hill soon – I’m about to do a big clean-up down there and beat back the jungle so the pumpkins can run.

Now for a funny story about that Taylor guitar.

I bought it in the US and found out that a guitar could be taken on a plane as carry-on, thanks to a special deal the TSA made with the American Federation of Musicians.

It’s not safe to stow a guitar in the baggage area. Pressure changes and battering about can wreck a fine instrument, so it’s good we can carry them on a plane legally.

Unfortunately, not all passengers are cool about it.

When I got on the plane with my guitar, I carefully packed it in the overhead bin.

Then a sour, middle-aged black guy sitting in my row decided to make a stink about it.

“Your guitar is takin’ up most of the space in this bin!”

“Sorry. What can I do?” I said, meaning there was really nothing I could do about it. There was also plenty of space in neighboring bins (and around my guitar, actually).

“Yeah, what can you do,” he said, exasperated that he had to move 12″ farther and use the edge of the next overhead compartment.

Once we were seated, I turned to him, hoping to break his icy contempt of all things guitar.

“Just be glad I’m not a piano player,” I said.


At that point, I realized the guy was a bound and determined to be sour, so I decided to continue and explain the joke like I was speaking to a small child.

“Well, see, it’s funny because a piano wouldn’t fit in the overhead bins.”

He just sat there in stony silence.

Ah well. Some people just can’t have any fun.

By the end of the flight he’d chilled out, though, and actually cracked a smile once. His granddaughter was sitting between us and I let her borrow my headphones so she could watch the in-flight movie, encouraged her in her drawing skills, plus helped her stow her backpack and get set for landing.

Just because her grandpa was a curmudgeon didn’t mean I was going to act the same.

That’s because I’m a good, good person who brags about how good he is on his good, good blog.


Have a great day, folks – sorry for the late post.


My Friend Eddy and His Gardens


Last week I posted this video featuring my friend Eddy:

Eddy took a small space in South Florida and used it to grow a good amount of food and medicine. Yams, soursop, avocado, passionfruit, Barbados cherry, guava, tamarind, bees, herbs, bananas and more. And that’s with a pool in the middle of the yard!

If you live in South Florida or another tropical climate, why would you plant ornamentals? Come on! You’re at the gateway to the bounty of the tropics… don’t waste your space!


An Excellent No-Dig Garden Demonstration

no dig gardening demonstration

This no-dig garden demonstration is excellent:

No dig gardening runs the gamut from Ruth Stout’s system (which is unfortunately straw-based) to the Back to Eden wood chips method.

My most recent no-dig garden was the one I built with bamboo, cardboard, seaweed, cow manure, chop-and-drop and compost:

It really works well, almost no matter how you do it.

The layers break down and compost in place and the soil life really gets going like you wouldn’t believe. I used big piles of mulch and leaves in my Tennessee garden years back and was absolutely amazed by the work population after a year. They were everywhere, and the hard red clay transformed into black loam within a year. Awesome!

Compost_960I cover this method among many others in my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.

Even though it’s not usually all that practical for large spaces, no dig gardening, lasagna gardening and Back to Eden gardening is perfect for backyard spaces, particularly where the native soil is less than wonderful.

Forking the soil beneath may help make the no-dig garden system work better, but I haven’t done that in the past. I’ve just put down cardboard and newspaper, followed by whatever I have available for compostable materials.

Kitchen scraps, leaves, grass clippings, manure, rotten wood, potting soil, peat moss, mushroom compost, banana peels, eggshells, seaweed… just get stuff that rots.

I also try to get a wide variety of materials for maximum mineral content. Seaweed is quite valuable for this, as is cow manure (provided it’s not the evil kind you’ll find across most of the United States).

Grass clippings! Leaves! Kitchen scraps! Paper!

We have these things all the time. Instead of chucking them, why not build some sweet little backyard beds instead?

Even tire gardens can be built as no-dig gardens:

In Florida I usually just dug beds. Here in the hard-to-dig rocky clay, I’m moving back towards experiments with no-dig gardening.

How has it worked for you?

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